Doing business in California often involves a multitude of decisions, ranging from choosing the appropriate business structure to ensuring compliance with relevant regulations. A critical aspect of this process is establishing your business name. For some entrepreneurs, filing a “Doing Business As” (DBA) can be an advantageous strategy.
A DBA, also known as a fictitious business name, is a name under which a business operates that is not its legal name. For example, if John Smith runs a bookshop under the name “Smith’s Cozy Book Nook”, “Smith’s Cozy Book Nook” is a DBA.
In this post, we’ll walk you through the steps to file a DBA in California.
Step 1: Choose Your Business Name
First and foremost, you must decide on a name for your business. This name should be unique and not infringe on any existing trademarks.
Step 2: Check the Availability of Your Chosen Name
Before filing your DBA, check to see if your chosen name is available. In California, you can do this by conducting a search on the County Clerk’s office website where your business is located. Please note, even if the name is available, it does not guarantee you will not infringe upon someone else’s trademark rights.
Step 3: File Your DBA
To file your DBA, you must complete a fictitious business name statement. This form can typically be found on your County Clerk’s office website. It will require information such as:
- The fictitious business name you wish to register.
- The street address of your business.
- Your full legal name.
- Other pertinent details as required by the form.
After completing the form, you must file it with the County Clerk’s office. This can usually be done in person, by mail, or, in some counties, online.
Please note that there is a filing fee associated with this process, which varies by county.
Step 4: Publish Your DBA
After your DBA has been filed and approved by the County Clerk, you are required to publish a statement in a newspaper of general circulation within the county where your DBA was filed. This publication must run once a week for four consecutive weeks.
The newspaper will then provide an affidavit of publication which you must file with the County Clerk’s office. This step must be completed within 30 days of your DBA filing.
Step 5: Renew Your DBA
In California, a DBA is valid for five years. If you wish to continue using your DBA after this period, you must renew it. This process is similar to the initial filing process.
In conclusion, filing a DBA in California involves choosing a business name, checking its availability, filing the appropriate paperwork with the County Clerk’s office, publishing the DBA, and renewing it every five years.
While the process may seem complex, it’s a crucial step for any business that wishes to operate under a name other than its legal name. It’s always recommended to seek advice from a business lawyer to ensure that you’re adhering to all legal procedures and protecting your business interests.
Can I use a DBA in multiple counties?
Yes, you can use a DBA in multiple counties, but you will need to register the DBA in each county where your business operates. Different counties may have slightly different registration processes and fees, so it’s important to review the specific requirements in each county. Keep in mind that a DBA does not provide exclusive rights to the use of the name across the state or country. Other businesses in other counties or states could potentially use the same DBA.
What’s the difference between an LLC and a DBA?
An LLC, or Limited Liability Company, and a DBA, or Doing Business As, are different aspects of business operations and serve separate functions.
An LLC is a type of business entity that provides a distinct structure for your business. It creates a separation between the business owners and the business itself. This separation provides the owners (members) of the LLC with certain legal protections, particularly in relation to the debts and liabilities of the business. In other words, members of an LLC are typically not personally responsible for the company’s debts and liabilities. This can be especially beneficial for businesses with a high level of risk or those with significant assets to protect.
A DBA, on the other hand, is not a type of business entity. Instead, it is a name under which a business chooses to operate. A DBA can be used by any type of business, including sole proprietorships, partnerships, LLCs, and corporations. The primary function of a DBA is to allow a business to operate under a name that differs from its legal name. However, it’s important to note that a DBA does not provide any legal protections or alter the legal structure of the business.
Can a DBA become an LLC?
A DBA is just a name, not a business entity like an LLC. However, if a sole proprietorship or partnership using a DBA wants to become an LLC, they can form an LLC and transfer the assets of the old business to the new LLC. The DBA cannot “become” an LLC, but the business can change its structure to an LLC. If the LLC wants to continue using the DBA, it would need to register the DBA under the LLC.
How much does a DBA cost?
The cost to file a DBA varies by county in California, but you can typically expect to pay a filing fee between $25 and $50. However, the total cost of filing a DBA can be higher when you consider additional requirements. For instance, in California, after filing a DBA, you are required to publish a statement in a newspaper of general circulation within the county where your DBA was filed. This publication must run once a week for four consecutive weeks. The cost for this publication can vary based on the newspaper, but it’s an essential part of the process.
Is there a limit to the number of DBAs I can have?
No, typically there is no limit to the number of DBAs a single business can have. This means that a business can operate under multiple names, each catering to a different aspect of the business, if desired. However, it’s crucial to remember that each DBA must be properly registered with the appropriate county clerk’s office. Additionally, each DBA must be regularly renewed (in California, every five years) to remain in compliance with local and state laws.
Can an LLC use a DBA?
Yes, an LLC can indeed use a DBA. In fact, there are several reasons why an LLC might want to use a DBA. For example, an LLC may want to launch a new product or service under a different name without creating a new LLC. Or, an LLC with a complex or less marketable legal name may want to use a simpler or more engaging DBA for branding purposes. In these situations, the LLC can register a DBA and conduct business under that name. However, it’s important to note that while the DBA can be used for branding, marketing, and daily business operations, the legal name of the LLC must still be used for legal documents, contracts, and other formal business matters.
What are the benefits of a DBA?
Using a DBA can offer a business several benefits. One of the primary benefits is the ability to operate under a different name without the need to form a new business entity. This can be particularly useful for branding or marketing purposes, as the DBA might be more reflective of the business’s services or products, or simply more appealing to customers.
For sole proprietors, a DBA allows them to use a business name instead of their personal name, which can offer a more professional image. In addition, it can help maintain personal privacy.
Finally, a DBA can provide businesses with a certain degree of flexibility. For instance, a business might want to segment different parts of its operations using different DBAs. This can make it easier for customers to understand the services or goods the business provides, and it can also make it simpler for the business to track income and expenses associated with each DBA.
Do I need a separate EIN for a DBA?
No, you do not need a separate Employer Identification Number (EIN) for a DBA. The EIN is tied to the legal entity (such as a person in the case of a sole proprietorship, or an LLC or corporation), not the DBA. If you already have an EIN for your business, you will use the same EIN even if you start using a DBA.
Does a DBA need a separate bank account?
If you’re a sole proprietor, the law doesn’t require you to have a separate bank account for your DBA. However, it’s highly recommended. Mixing business and personal funds can lead to confusion, make bookkeeping and tax preparation harder, and could cause legal issues. If your business is an LLC or corporation, it’s generally required to have a separate bank account, regardless of whether you’re using a DBA or not.
Can I sell my DBA?
A DBA, being simply a name under which you do business, doesn’t have an independent existence separate from the business that uses it. Therefore, it cannot be sold separately like a business entity (such as an LLC or corporation) can. However, if you sell your business, you can include the DBA in the sale, which means the new owner would have the right to use the DBA.
How long does a DBA last?
In California, a DBA is valid for five years from the date of filing. If you wish to continue using the DBA after this period, you must renew it. The renewal process is similar to the initial filing process, and you will need to complete a renewal form with the County Clerk’s office, pay the required fee, and meet any other requirements, such as publication in some cases.
It’s important to note that it’s your responsibility as the business owner to keep track of your DBA’s expiration date and to make sure the renewal is completed on time. Failing to renew your DBA can lead to its expiration, which could mean that another business could potentially register the same name. Also, you may face penalties for continuing to use an expired DBA. It’s advisable to set reminders or use other methods to ensure you don’t forget this important task.
Can a DBA have a tax ID?
A DBA itself does not have a tax ID, also known as an Employer Identification Number (EIN), because a DBA is not a separate legal entity. The EIN is associated with the legal entity that is doing business under the DBA. So, if a sole proprietorship, partnership, LLC, or corporation has an EIN, that EIN is used for tax purposes even when doing business under a DBA.
What happens if I don’t renew my DBA on time?
If you don’t renew your DBA on time, it will expire, and you will no longer be legally allowed to do business under that name. In California, once your DBA has expired, another business could potentially register the same DBA. If you continue to use an expired DBA, you may be subject to penalties. If your DBA has expired, you should contact your County Clerk’s office as soon as possible to discuss how to renew or refile your DBA.
Can two businesses have the same DBA?
In California, it’s possible for two businesses to have the same DBA if they are registered in different counties. This is because DBA registration in California is done on a county-by-county basis. However, it’s generally not a good idea to choose a DBA that is already in use, as it can lead to confusion and potential legal issues. Also, keep in mind that just because a DBA is not in use in your county does not mean it is not trademarked on a state or national level.
How do I transfer a DBA to someone else?
Transferring a DBA to another person or entity typically involves filing a new fictitious business name statement with the County Clerk’s office. The new owner will need to complete the statement and pay the filing fee. After the new statement is filed, the previous owner may need to file a statement of abandonment for the DBA. The specifics of this process can vary by county, so it’s a good idea to check with your County Clerk’s office or a legal advisor.
Do I need a DBA if I’m a freelancer?
If you’re freelancing under your legal name, you generally don’t need a DBA. However, if you want to freelance under a different name, you will need to register a DBA. Registering a DBA can help enhance your professional image and maintain your personal privacy. Also, some clients might prefer to work with a freelancer who has a DBA, as it can convey a higher level of professionalism.
Is a DBA necessary for an online business?
Whether a DBA is necessary for an online business depends on how the business operates. If your online business operates under a name that is different from its legal name, then you will need a DBA. However, if the business operates under its legal name, a DBA is not necessary. It’s important to remember that even though your business operates online, you still need to comply with local and state business laws.
Can I use a DBA for my eCommerce store?
Yes, you can use a DBA for your eCommerce store. A DBA can be particularly useful for an eCommerce business as it allows you to use a brand name that may be more marketable or descriptive of what you sell. However, keep in mind that even though your store operates online, you must register your DBA in the county or state where your business is physically located or where it is registered if it’s an LLC or corporation.
Do I need to register a DBA for my side business?
If your side business is operating under a name that is different from your legal name (if you are a sole proprietor) or its official registered name (if it’s an LLC or corporation), then yes, you need to register a DBA. Registering a DBA for your side business can help you keep it separate from your main business or personal affairs, which can be beneficial for accounting, tax, and legal purposes.
Can a DBA use “Inc.” or “LLC” in the name?
Generally, a DBA cannot use “Inc.” or “LLC” in the name unless the business is actually incorporated or formed as an LLC. Using “Inc.” or “LLC” in a DBA could potentially mislead the public into thinking the business has a different legal structure than it does, which can have legal implications.
Can I get a business credit card with a DBA?
Yes, you can typically get a business credit card using a DBA. Many banks allow you to apply for a business credit card using your DBA instead of your legal business name. However, you will also need to provide your EIN or Social Security number (if you are a sole proprietor) for the credit check.
Can a nonprofit organization have a DBA?
Yes, a nonprofit organization can register and use a DBA. This can be particularly useful if the nonprofit wants to run a specific program or initiative under a different name, or if it simply wants to shorten or modify its name for easier recognition.
Can I register a DBA online in California?
Yes, in many counties in California, you can register a DBA online. However, the specific process and the availability of online registration can vary by county. It’s important to visit your specific county’s clerk or recorder’s website to learn about the process and complete the necessary steps.
Can I register a DBA in California if I live in another state?
If you are doing business in California, even if you live in another state, you should register your DBA in California. The county where you need to register your DBA would generally be the county where your principal place of business in California is located.
How do I check if a DBA is already in use?
In California, you can typically check if a DBA is already in use by visiting the county clerk’s website for the county where you plan to do business. Many county clerk websites have an online search feature that allows you to search their database of registered DBAs. However, remember that this will only check the DBA in one county. If you want to check if a DBA is in use in other counties, or if it’s trademarked on a state or national level, you’ll need to conduct those searches separately.
Can I have the same DBA as another business?
In California, it’s possible for two businesses to have the same DBA if they are registered in different counties. This is because DBA registration in California is done on a county-by-county basis. However, it’s generally not a good idea to choose a DBA that is already in use, as it can lead to confusion and potential legal issues. Furthermore, using a DBA that is already trademarked can lead to legal consequences, even if it’s registered in a different county.